Thursday, September 27, 2007

Conflict Resolution 2: Attitude Adjustments


Attitude might not exactly be everything when dealing with conflict management, but it sure plays a big part. The most productive attitude in addressing disputes, especially in the initial stages, is one of letting go of resentment toward the other party. Regardless of what events have transpired, or what emotions have been riled up, trying to remain in the present, as psychologists love to say, will ensure a more peaceful interaction and result. This involves conscientiously focusing on the present situation and not on old feelings and suspicions, regardless of how valid they are or how tempting it is to ruminate over them.

Dredging up problems from the past will only complicate the situation at hand. Trying to prove past points is not only moot, but a recipe for failure. If the other party brings up past problems, shortcomings, or former poor attitudes, be vigilant in making a smooth shift back to the facts and data regarding the current situation. Some venting and fuming over past incidents is to be expected. However, until the current issues are essentially agreed upon, progress toward a current plan of action will stall.

One positive technique to resolve conflict in its initial stages is the “When You Do____ , I/We Feel” statement. This means commenting on how you feel when the other party engages in a specific behavior or activity. It reduces the potential for the other party to feel attacked or accused. In other words, you state the facts in terms of how their actions affect your feelings and not by assigning blame. For example:

Example A. CORRECT: "When you do system A instead of system B, we feel that quality is compromised." (Statement of fact)

Example B: INCORRECT: "When you use system A instead of system B, quality is compromised." (Blame)

When you don’t use the word "I" or "we", the statement essentially puts the other party on the defensive (Example B). In one case, you are honestly stating your feelings about poor quality. In the other case, you are blaming them for poor quality. The last thing you want is to put the other party on the defensive in the early stages of conflict management. Remember, they can just as easily get your defenses up. Blaming will result in a stalled negotiation, if not worse, and will reinforce the past negative feelings that you are attempting to overcome.

Try this attitude and technique sometime in a simple, neutral situation-you might be surprised with the results.


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Thursday, September 20, 2007

Leadership 1: Who Values Group Values?

The days of the dominating, stand-alone charismatic leader are long gone. Given that today’s projects are often costly and complex, and that group members are talented, specialized, and expensive, the charismatic leader model is something to be avoided—it’s the business equivalent of putting all your eggs in one basket. A preferred technique is Facilitative Leadership, which has been shown to be the most effective manner in developing a loyal followership. Remember, one cannot lead without followers.

In today’s complex business climate, the successful leader cannot afford to be ignorant of the goals, objectives, and values of his or her team members. An old saying applies here: “You have two ears and one mouth, so you should listen twice as much as you talk.” This should be the marching order for any successful leader, whether it’s a leader of an informal group of three or of a multinational corporation. The facilitative process involves active listening and constant creative questioning.

As a leader begins to understand the group’s values more clearly, he or she can facilitate leadership more easily by using the group’s own momentum. This allows the group members to discover how their personal aspirations, professional goals, values, and objectives fit the goals and tasks of the whole group. Workers tend to be more passionate about and committed to an idea that they have developed themselves, rather than to one that has been passed down as an order. The leader’s job is to facilitate this congruence.

Bernard Bass, an innovative business psychology professor, has demonstrated that facilitative leaders are more successful than conventional leaders in a variety of groups and venues, ranging from nuns managing convents to Fortune 500 leaders. In all likelihood, this approach will work in your setting too.

An old Indian proverb illustrates this concept: “ The creator, like a spider, builds her world then enters into it.”Ian

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